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Private Equity Exits Worth $600m, CyPhy Drones Startup Raises $22m, IFC Backs Indian Food E-Commerce and more – weekly roundup

October 14, 2015

Welcome to another addition of AgFunderNews’ weekly roundup. Drones are back in the news this week after drone startup CyPhy closed a $22 million round led by Bessemer Venture Partners. The Massachusetts-based company has now nabbed more than $30 million in funding, including a $7 million round from Lux Capital in 2013. According to a statement, CyPhy is looking forward to using its new investor partners to accelerate the adoption of drones in a number of sectors, including agriculture. With the FAA poised to drop final regulations authorizing the use of small drones in 2016, this funding could tee the company up nicely to take advantage of the new regulations.

Need to rent some farm equipment? Precision agriculture provider FarmLink is hoping to make equipment sharing a lot more user-friendly with its new online sharing community, MachineryLink. For some farmers, purchasing a new $450,000 combine is simply out of the question. With MachineryLink, farmers can peruse offerings from fellow farmers and equipment dealers to find an arrangement that fits both their schedules and their bottom lines. On the flipside, farmers and retailers with equipment to spare can put some extra cash in their pockets by posting a rental offer on the site. A number of partners throughout the United States have already committed to participating in MachineryLink, which is set to go live sometime this Fall, and those eager to get their hands on some rental arrangements can pre-register on the company’s website.

From the fields to the kitchen, Indian food e-commerce continues to make waves this week, despite the increasing saturation of the sector. The World Bank’s private sector lending branch, International Finance Corp, invested $25 million in online grocery provider Big Basket, shortly after the company earned a coveted place among startup unicorns. This is the first known IFC investment in the seemingly unstoppable Indian e-commerce sector. Also, Mumbai-based online organic food portal Naturally Yours raised an undisclosed seed round from angel investor Sanjay Mehta. The company intends to use the funds to expand its product offerings, increase its product range, and build out both its core and support teams. Offering more than just food, Naturally Yours delivers everything from cosmetics, to organic clothing. They’re not all winners in the world of digital eats for Indian consumers. Two home-cooked food delivery companies closed operations this week. You can read our analysis of this trend here.

Feeling some culinary curiosity, or wanting to mix up your meal plan? A New York startup promises to help you satisfy your dietary wanderlust with its online marketplace which enables customers to sample gourmet products from across the globe. Earlier this week, Try the World, closed a $2.3 million Series A led by Alven Capital and a handful of angel investors, to expand its bi-monthly doorstep food subscription service. The company calls on high-level chefs to help curate each offering, which feature local artisanal goods from a different country each delivery while also offering certain items for sale on its eStore.

It’s been a busy week for later stage private equity deals after Scottish shellfish processing company Macduff Shellfish sold to Canadian-based Clearwater Seafoods for a whopping £98.4 million ($150 million). Earning European private equity investor Change Capital 2.7 times what it invested, the founding Beaton family also exited the company after running it for over 30 years and building a £52-million business.

Agribusiness private equity investment firm Paine & Partners completed its exit from Sunrise Growers earlier this week, selling its stake in the conventional and organic frozen fruit processor to SunOpta, a global organic food company. The sale closed on around $450 million. P&P acquired the company in March 2013, seeing Sunrise Growers through three acquisitions, significant growth capital investments across its platform and an 80 percent increase in revenues. Sunrise Growers referred to its relationship with P&P as instrumental in helping the company build its global presence.

Those who criticize the USDA for paying too much attention to commodity crops may soon have to put their money where their mouths are. The USDA unveiled over $113 million in program grants to support farmers growing fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery crops, also known as “specialty crops.” The funds and programs will be administered through research, agricultural extension activities, and programs to increase demand, and address the needs of the country’s dynamic specialty crop industry. Roughly 755 Specialty Crop Block Grant Programs across the nation will receive at least $63 million of the funding to support specialty crop growers and research programs.

USDA also announced over $17 million in grants for organizations that help provide training and other critical resources for beginning farmers and ranchers throughout the country. Established in the 2008 Farm Bill, and housed in the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the Beginning Farmer, and Rancher Development Program will oversee the grants.

Taking a turn into the land of policy and politics, California Governor Jerry Brown made history this week by signing a bill that would sharply limit the use of antibiotics in farm animals in the state. The first state bill of its kind in the country, the law bans the use of medically important antibiotics in chickens, pigs, cows, and other livestock raised for profit, limiting meat producers to administering the drugs when a veterinarian approves their use to treat sickness or prevent infections, in the event of an “elevated risk.” The bill was created in response to growing concerns about the abundant use of antibiotics in livestock production and the increasing risk of antibiotic resistance.

With the race to the 2016 Presidential election well underway, some of the biggest names in food reform are taking steps to ensure that the industry has a seat at the next president’s policy agenda table. New York Times Op-Ed writer Mark Bittman, investigative journalist Michael Pollan, sustainable ag expert and scientist Ricardo Salvador, and Belgian legal scholar and Special Rapporteur on the right to food Olivier De Schutter published an open letter in The Washington Post describing how a national food policy could save millions of Americans’ lives.

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